But looking at the results alone, don’t tell the story of Sami Bowler’s most successful weekend since she started racing at the start of 2018.
Bowler had arrived at the Mini festival on a huge high after scoring her first podium in the preceding race. This was a great achievement after so little racing experience (Bowler had never raced anything before the start of 2018) and the confidence boost was clearly spurring her on, on track too.
After a confidence building Friday test session, Bowler went into qualifying full of confidence and in a close session second to fifth regularly swapped quickest times. Bowler found herself in fifth but had set consistently quick times whereas rivals ahead had set a single fast time to get ahead and then were regularly slower. This meant things looked good for the race when her pace should mean she could overhaul her rivals.
Bowler got a good start as the lights went out and was soon up into fourth. She then came up against Stuart Mclaren who she often finds herself battling against. She tried to find a way through for several laps before finding enough of a gap to charge through into third. Some rubbing had left some of her bodywork fouling a front tyre but this did not seem to be slowing her down.
However the car did start to lose pace and the small lead she pulled out from Mclaren disappeared and he repassed her. However she was comfortably ahead of the rest of the pack and took a strong fourth.
Race two proved to be more of the same but better as this time she moved into second place on lap one and held it for twelve laps. She had looked set for her best result yet until a dramatic decline in car handling saw her lose pace with first Rob Austin and then Stuart Mclaren finding a way past.
The car was looked at after the race to try and diagnose the problem. If it could be sorted, with her pace a podium looked guaranteed for Bowler. The final race was a reverse grid and she started third with two slower rivals ahead, maybe a win was possible?
She got her best start of the weekend and took the lead going into lap two. She initially looked comfortable and it seemed like a win might be on as she also set the fastest lap of the race so far. But on the next lap, Championship leader Butcher-Lord came through pushing her down to second. This could still be her best result to date if she could hang on.
Sadly disaster struck on the next lap as the handling problem that had plagued her in race two returned. With a car which didn’t want to turn round corners, Bowler faced a tough battle to defend her podium slot on a circuit which consists of mostly corners.
Sadly the inevitable happened as the laps counted down with Austin and Mclaren passing her as she struggled to force her car round some of Brands tighter corners. This left her in fourth once again.
It was frustrating to miss out on a podium but overall there were nothing but positives to come from the weekend. Bowler had set her fastest ever times around the Kent circuit and not only that but she had been consistently fast. She had also proved she could race hard against any rival and come out on top with her fight to the lead in race three. Her eventual slips down the order had been down to a technical issue rather then her own driving meaning it’s now very much a case of when and not if Bowler takes her first ever win in car racing. Her efforts were also noticed by the commentator on the live internet streamed race coverage.
Bowler spoke about her weekend afterwards;
“This Brands Hatch Mini Festival was my best race weekend yet! I may have scored no podiums, but in terms of consistent lap times, use of kerbs and battles for a podium, we made the most progression we have ever made coming away with three fourth places and down to 0.2 off the fastest lap!
A combination of my Racelogic Vbox data plus invaluable advice from Ant and Jamie over at Jamsport Racing, meant I managed to find over a second a lap.
A few set up changes on day three did not pay off so back to the drawing board but this is the first time we have been able to play with setup. Bring on Croft!”
Sami Bowler hadn’t even raced anything prior to the start of 2018. Now barely a year and a half later, she has taken her first podium and is fighting for wins. The future looks very strong for this rising star from Stockport! By Marc Waller